Consciousness & competence: I have questions

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about unconscious incompetence. It’s nothing new and there’s lots out there that you can read about consciousness and competence [Learning a New Skill is Easier Said Than Done, Consciousness & Competence, & The Four Stages of Learning among many others]. There are a variety of ways that these have been interpreted (see articles). I understand that learning is a process and we all need time and support to achieve unconscious competence.

But I have questions.

Should we be striving for becoming unconsciously competent? If you’re unconsciously competent, are you still learning? Are there skills/areas that you can never become truly competent in without continual learning and growth? Is the education sector one of those? Many US states mandate continuing education credits for educators. That could imply that the journey to competency is never ending.

For some reason it seems that unconscious incompetence is a plague in adulthood. It’s pretty common among children too but we can easily forgive them.

An ignorant mind is precisely not a spotless, empty vessel, but one that’s filled with the clutter of irrelevant or misleading life experiences, theories, facts, intuitions, strategies, algorithms, heuristics, metaphors, and hunches that regrettably have the look and feel of useful and accurate knowledge. “We Are All Confident Idiots

Truth time: I have a difficult time dealing with unconscious incompetence in adults. So I have to remember how important ruthless compassion is (thanks Danielle LaPorte!). And I’m sure there are times when I am unconsciously incompetent and I want other people to have compassion for me. But it’s just so dang difficult. Especially when you’re consciously incompetent or consciously competent and people who are less competent think they are experts. How can I support you if you can’t recognize that you need support?

How do we get out of the unconsciously incompetent black hole? And why would we? It’s pretty blissful. I’m sure there are studies out there with some hypotheses. I would love to see studies done specifically about educational technology and educators. How can I use my new found passion for instructional coaching (I’m consciously incompetent BTW) to help educators who are stuck?

While sitting on the couch with my husband last Friday I had what felt like an epiphany (and this also makes me feel quite vulnerable to put on-the-line). I entered teaching 100% incompetent. And I most definitely knew it. I came to education via an alternative route. Never in a million years did I think I would be a teacher. Pretty much my entire family was in education and I was sure that it wasn’t for me. And then Jeff and I moved to South Carolina. And I was offered a job teaching French. There weren’t many (read: any) other job prospects so I started teaching HS French in the fall of 2009. Extenuating circumstances meant that I entered the classroom in August with NO training. I had to teach the entire fall semester before I had official training through the state department. Luckily I had a great support system both at home and in the district. Last week I put two and two together…I wonder if my route to education (which was incredibly atypical) is the reason that I am able to be consciously incompetent. And if this is the case, what can be implemented to help all educators have some level of conscious incompetence? We love to talk about growth mindset. How are competency, consciousness and growth/fixed mindset intertwined? What can I do to support these teachers, to learn and grow with them instead of feeling the push back from ‘experts’? If anyone has the answer, I’d love to hear it.

Disclaimer: I know many educators who are not unconsciously incompetent. But I’d really love to find a way to help those who are.

Seriously: Read this article if you haven’t: We Are All Confident Idiots. Well-written and research-based.

Last week’s project – a gradebook screencast for staff

We switched grade reporting programs this year. We’ve moved to an online gradebook that parents & students can access 24/7. Because we decided to stay with our current provider (Rediker) in order to keep all our student data, we have had to adapt TeacherGradebook to function properly for our IB programs. Although we’ve created lots of step-by-step written instructions, teachers still struggle to understand exactly what it is that they’re doing. We decided that giving them a more conceptual understanding of the gradebook might help them going forward.

I’m sharing this because I spent a significant amount of time working on it last week. And because TechSmith is pretty great to use – simple, intuitive, quick with lots of video editing options. My one complaint is that many sites (including WordPress) don’t allow you to embed the SmartPlayer (where all the really cool features are). Our Tech Director uploaded the necessary files to our school website so that I could share the blinged out version with staff (without having to upload to ScreenCast.com). I also uploaded the boring version to our Office 365 InfoSite.

Here is the (edited) version with all the bells & whistles. It has:

  • Clickable table of contents takes you to various sections of the video.
  • Click on the video whenever you see a link to open the website in a new tab. Your mouse pointer will change to a hand whenever the video is clickable.
  • Click the ‘table of contents’ button to search the video.

The boring version is embedded below. Enjoy 🙂

[Full disclosure: I recieved Camtasia & Snagit free because I’m a Google for Education Certified Trainer. But this post has nothing to do with that – I just love working with the products. AND they’re from my home state, Pure Michigan 🙂 ]

An Inquiry into Teaching & Learning w/ Social Media

Yesterday the #AISQ8 elementary school engaged in an afternoon of professional personal learning. Based on previous feedback from staff, the leadership team asked me to facilitate a workshop on teaching and learning with social media. I used Kath Murdoch‘s Inquiry Cycle to plan the workshop and brainstormed with Christina to help refine it. I used Elena Aguilar’s Mind the Gap Framework to assist teachers in identifying their areas of success and growth (re: teaching & learning w/ social media).

Pre-assessment (we didn't have time for post)

Teachers identified their areas of success and growth.

I reached out to my PLN to help get buy-in from teachers during the Finding Out stage. There were lots of awesome responses! A HUGE thank you to everyone who took the time to contribute 🙂

We got started late and were pretty rushed in the 40 minutes we had and had to skip most of the Making Conclusions & Taking Action steps. I’m excited to have this new workshop framework for introducing teachers to social media and can’t wait to try it again! I was particularly intrigued by the discussion that the Think-Pair-Share lead to. It’s interesting to hear differing perspectives on what social media is, why we use it and how different media are used.

Update: I did not share the picture above with teachers after our workshop. So today (9 days later), I sent a follow-up email with the picture and some probing questions to get them thinking:

  • What assumptions are (still) informing your perspective about social media (in education)?
  • What have you done in the last 9 days to mind your gap?
  • What will be/has been your first small step forward?
  • If time was not an issue, how would you use social media in teaching and learning?
  • What will you do this week to mind your gap? This month? This year?
  • How would you answer these questions?

I’m not expecting responses but this gave me a chance to work on my questioning skills. I hope it gets them thinking as we head into the weekend!

Why are you connected?

Tomorrow (afternoon of February 2) I’ll be facilitating a workshop for #AISQ8 (elementary) staff on using social media in teaching and learning. From my experience educators need to buy-in before spending (precious!) time learning and developing their social media presence. And that presence is essential if you want to genuinely use social media in teaching and learning. How can you help your students become connected if you aren’t?

I would love your (my wonderful PLN) thoughts on some questions to (hopefully) help garner some buy-in from teachers. Feel free to discuss here, on Twitter, on my COETAIL blog or if submit here if you prefer to remain anonymous. Merci bien!

  • Why have you chosen to use social media to create an open network and be professionally connected? What sparked your commitment?
  • How did you become connected? What, specifically, did you do to cultivate your PLN?
  • Why do you stay connected? What keeps you coming back to your PLN?
  • How do you stay connected? How do you balance what you put in (time) with what you get out (benefits)?
  • How do you balance creating your social media brand with staying authentically you (in a space where many people don’t actually know you personally)?
  • How has being connected impacted your learning? Your teaching?
  • Why have you chosen to use social media to create an open network for your classroom/students? What sparked your commitment?
  • Why do you keep your classroom connected/open? What impact has this had on your students?
  • What advice do you have for teachers who are looking to start using social media for teaching and learning?
  • What ‘connected’ experiences have impacted you/your classroom the most? These personal stories can have a huge influence on other educators thinking about becoming connected.
  • Any other thoughts are also welcome and appreciated! 🙂

Inquiring into Technology

In the fall two grade 3 teachers asked my colleague and I to introduce iPad apps to their classes. After some coaching, we decided to start with introducing the big ideas behind presenting information before the apps. We’ve done that (post coming soon) and now the classes are ready to go further with some practical application of Contrast, Alignment, Repetition and Proximity. But because I like to think big (and make more work for myself), I wondered what a learning experience would look like for introducing any app to students.

Could we create a learning experience that could be adapted by teachers/instructional coaches for any creation app/program (and would not be boring or repetitive for students)?

After doing some brainstorming with Andria based on Kath Murdoch‘s Inquiry Cycle, I drafted the learning experience below. Anyone with the link is able to comment…looking forward to your warm and cool feedback!

Learning to Coach, Coaching to Learn pt. 5

I just finished the Eduro Learning Coaching: From Theory to Practice course with the AISQ8 leadership cohort. Since the our forum posts are private, I’ve asked my coachee if I could post my reflections on my blog. Thankfully she obliged!

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Week 7
Create a coaching implementation plan that fits your school’s needs. Ensure that you:
*highlights specific strengths and weaknesses of current school structure with specific suggestions for improvement.
*provides specific steps for implementation (including your strategy for empowering learning leaders) with a realistic timeline.
*includes an overview and rationale for administrators to consider.
*include a reflective post in our forums that highlights your key learning from this course and how you will be able to apply and implement that learning in your setting, based on your Action Plan.

As this final project has loomed, I felt increasingly anxious about starting it. It took me quite a bit of reflection and several ah-ha moments to realize what was holding me back from moving forward.

  • I was intimidated. The project options seemed big and important. How was I supposed to create something that grand in a short period of time? Then I looked at previous final projects. I wanted my final project to be amazing (yes I’m a perfectionist) but felt too overwhelmed to even start.
  • I was focused on having all the answers. During a conversation today, I realized (again) that this project is simply an action plan. I need to make sure my action plan includes time for tuning in, finding out and sorting out before we make any conclusions. Those are my actions – I don’t need to have everything figured out right now.

Writing my post last week helped me find a focus for my project. I am most interested in the vision behind the coaches, ensuring that staff know our purpose and receiving regular feedback on our effectiveness. These originate from my biggest complaints during my 3.5 years in this position:
*we aren’t sure (or agree on) what our purpose is and neither is any other stakeholders.
*we haven’t received minimal feedback on our effectiveness.
This very quickly and easily leads to a closed heart (slide 60):

When you lead people, you often begin with a desire to contribute to an organization or community, to help people resolve important issues, to improve the quality of their lives. Your heart is not entirely innocent, but you begin with hope and concern for people. Along the way, however, it becomes difficult to sustain those feelings when many people reject your aspirations as too unrealistic, challenging or disruptive. Results arrive slowly. You become hardened to the discouraging reality. Your heart closes up.
Heifetz & Linsky (2003) Leadership on the line.

I’m not that person. But sometimes I become that person. I don’t want to be that person now or going forward. My action plan is intended to allow our hearts to stay open.

How do we stay visible, effective and mission-focused? During my action research project last year, I had the opportunity to work collaboratively with 4 AIS teachers in a Critical Friends Group setting. Although the participants were from 4 different subject areas and 2 different divisions, I felt as though this group coaching model allowed us to learn with and from each other. This model has the potential to be even more effective with more cohesive groups (grade level teams, departments, etc). My action research also forced me to think about evaluating the success of professional development. Gayton & McEwen offer evaluation levels for professional development (page 90). This might be a great place to start investigating how to evaluate the effectiveness of the coaching program (and coaches) at AIS.

Just as the IB Learner Profile is not something we do but something we live, I am looking forward to our action plans creating a culture of coaching at AIS. Instructional coaching has the potential to slowly become embedded in everything we do, to become our way of life.

Excited to continue this journey with you all!

Empowering is difficult

Part of my job involves teaching and supporting teachers in learning new technologies. In my 3.5 years here, this has included apps (iMovie, Keynote, etc), online gradebooks, blogs, Google Apps and more. Every time I work with a teacher I have to make the conscious effort NOT to do everything for them. Sometimes this is easier than others.

It’s not uncommon for me to walk into a classroom and have the teacher offer me their seat at the computer. I never allow this to happen and make it clear (in a caring way) that they will be the ones doing the work and I will simply be talking them through the steps (coaching!). Many times it would be infinitely faster if I just took over and made all the clicks. When it’s especially frustrating and time consuming I have to physically & mentally force myself to stay away from the mouse (or other device). What I could do in 10 minutes might take an hour to walk a teacher through (like my most recent experience that prompted this reflection).

straitjacket-rear

I have to focus on a couple things to help me keep my hands to myself:

  • I am a coach and a teacher. Neither coaches nor teachers do the work for athletes or students. Instead we provide learning experiences to allow our students (whoever they might be) to grow. I am doing my job well if I there is a gradual release and the teachers need less assistance next time.
  • The excitement that teachers (inevitably) feel when they, not me, have accomplished something. When I am leaving the classroom and the teacher is profusely thanking me, I have to make sure they understand that this accomplishment was theirs, not mine. Being present to see the process and completion of a task is a powerful experience that I have to keep at the forefront of my mind when I’m most frustrated.

My job is about empowering, not doing. It can be incredibly frustrating (and time consuming) but also so rewarding. And that is what makes me love teaching and coaching teachers. #gratitude